Ted Dintersmith made a LOT of money as a venture capitalist. And because he has two children he became very interested in education in this country. He has spent a lot of his time and money exploring what we are doing, both right and wrong. He has looked at schools in all 50 states, co-authored Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Age, produced the documentary film Most Likely to Succeed and just published his second book, What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration From Teachers Across America.
Valarie Strauss, long time education writer for The Washington Post, did an interesting piece about Dintersmith that includes an article by him. You can read it here.
Here are excerpts I found especially meaningful:
“America’s teachers are dedicated, passionate and committed — across all types of schools. They care. Many are distressed, even in tears. Like troops fighting an unwinnable war, our teachers know they’re being held accountable to tests that don’t reflect real learning, nor lead to important competencies. We are demoralizing our teaching force, driving our best to early retirement and dissuading young adults from the profession that will shape our nation’s future.
I was blown away by the many inspiring examples of great innovation I encountered — in classrooms, schools, districts and states. In these classrooms, teachers help kids develop essential skill sets and mindsets. Instead of checking off endless content boxes (AP U.S. History, for example, covers five centuries, allowing a whopping 30 minutes for the U.S. Constitution), students master what they learn, apply it and teach others.
I didn’t find charter schools to be, on balance, more innovative than public schools. Some of the most remarkable innovations I observed were in the very public schools that choice advocates dismiss — in places such as Charlotte, Newark, Coachella and Waipahu.
We fail to appreciate the heavy price our students and our teachers pay when we insist, “We have to be able to measure it.”
I was encouraged to visit districts, and even states, that are transforming their schools — all of their schools. Their leaders bring a compelling message about the urgency of change and lay out aspirational possibilities.
In U.S. education, nonexperts tell experts what to do. Priorities are set by legislators, billionaires, textbook and testing executives, college admissions officers and education bureaucrats. These forces, perhaps unintentionally, impede real change in our schools.
Business principles aren’t the key to improving U.S. education. If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it. Pitting schools against each other in a test-score “Hunger Games” drags everyone down.
There is, though, one business principle that applies to education. If you want insight, spend time with those in the trenches. Our teachers know how to engage our children, to inspire them to race ahead, to prepare them for adult life.”
I have Dintersmith’s first book and have just ordered his second. Should be more interesting reading.